JOHN iv. 46-53
1. The lesson of the Holy Gospel which you have just now heard,
Brethren, needs no explanation. But that we may not appear to pass over it in
silence, we shall say something with regard to it more by way of exhortation
than explanation. The only point in it that I see needs to be explained is, why
he who had come to pray for the restoration to health of his son should hear the
words: Unless you see signs and wonders, you believe not? For without
doubt this man who came praying for the health of his son believed. He would not
have asked healing from one he did not believe was a Healer. Why then were the
words: Unless you see signs and wonders, you believe not, said to one who
believed even before seeing a sign? But remember what he asked and you will see
clearly that his faith was doubtful.
For he asked that Jesus should come down, and heal his son. He asked
therefore for the bodily Presence of the Lord Who in spirit is present in all
places; and so had little faith in Him Who, he believed, could not heal unless
He were present in body with the sick. Had his faith been perfect, he would have
known beyond doubt that there is no place where God is not. And so in great part
he was unbelieving: for He was not honouring Christís divine majesty, but His
corporeal presence. He begs for his sonís healing, and at the same time his
faith is doubting: for he believes that He to Whom he has come has power to
heal; but believes also that unless Jesus comes to him, his son will die. But
the Lord, when asked to come, shows that he is not absent from where He is asked
to come; and by His sole word He restores health Who by His sole command created
2. And here we must carefully recall to mind what we learned from the
testimony of another Evangelist, that a certain centurion came to the Lord and
said: Lord, my servant lieth at home sick of the palsy, and is grievously
tormented. And straightaway Jesus answers: I will come and heal him
(Mt. viii. 6, 7). Why is it that when the ruler asks Him to come to his son He
refuses to go there bodily, while, though not asked to come to the servant of
the centurion, He offers to go there at once? He does not think it fitting that
He should go to the rulerís son, while He did think it fitting to hasten to the
What is this but a rebuking of our pride, which leads us to honour in men,
not their nature, in which they are made to the image of God, but their dignity
and riches? While our mind is drawn to the things that surround men, we have no
thought for the inward things of man; we consider carefully what can be seen on
their bodies, we fail to think of what they are themselves. But our Redeemer, to
show us that what is high to men (Lk. xvi. 15), is not to be esteemed by
the sanctified, and that what men despise the saints must not despise, refuses
to go to the son of the ruler, while ready at once to go to the centurionís
servant. Therefore it is our pride He here rebuked; which is unable, because of
men, to judge what men are. As we have said, pride thinks only of the things
that surround men, and has no thought for their natures: it will not acknowledge
the dignity of God in man.
See how the Son of God will not come down to the son of the ruler, yet He is
ready to come at once to heal a slave. And indeed should someoneís slave ask us
to come and see him, at once the unspoken thought of our pride will answer, and
say: ĎDo not go. You will demean yourself, and lose dignity. The neighbourhood
is unpleasant.í And lo! He Who came down from heaven does not refuse to come at
once to a servant on earth; while we who are of the earth earthy, think it
beneath us to be humble on earth. What is baser in the sight of God, what more
contemptible, than to serve honour among men, and have no reverence for the eyes
of the Unseen Witness?
Because of this we read in the holy Gospel, that the Lord said to the
Pharisees: You are they who justify themselves before men, but God knoweth
your hearts. For that which is high to men, is an abomination before God
(Lk. xvi. 15), Note well, brethren: take note of what He says. If what is held
in honour among men, is held as abominable before God; then the more the pride
of our heart is despised by God, the more it is esteemed by men; and the more
the humility of our heart is despised by men, the more is it honoured by God.
3. Let us then hold it as nothing should we do any good work. Let no work of
ours inflate us with pride, no abundance of possessions, no earthly glory uplift
us. For of the humble of heart the psalmist says: The Lord is the keeper of
little ones (cxiv. 6). Why he calls the humble of heart, little ones,
he then tells us: as though we had immediately asked him what the Lord did for
them: I was humbled, and he delivered me.
Meditate upon these things, brethren, meditate upon them with your whole
attention. Do not bow down before the worldly possessions of your neighbour. Out
of reverence for God, honour this in men (to whom at the same time you have not
been entrusted): That they are made in the image of God. And you will truly
honour your neighbour in this way, if your heart is not puffed up with pride.
For he who remains above himself, because of his fleeting possessions, does not
know how to honour in his neighbour that which endures for ever.
Do not therefore be taken up with what you have, but with what you are. See
how even now the world men love withers away. These holy ones, by whose tomb we
are gathered, in their souls despised this glittering world. There was then the
allure of long life, unbroken health, abundance of every kind, fruitfulness of
offspring, rest in undisturbed peace; yet, while the world flowered in itself,
already in their hearts it had withered.
See how the world now withers in itself; yet still flowers in our heart.
Everywhere is death, everywhere sorrow, everywhere desolation and sadness; we
are struck from every side, from every side we are filled with bitterness. And
yet, with minds blinded by carnal desires, we love this very bitterness; as the
world leaves us, we pursue it; as it collapses, we cling to it. And since we
cannot uphold it, as it falls we fall with it; we fall with that to which as it
falls we cling.
Once the world held us fast in its delight. Now it is filled with so many
afflictions, that now it is the world itself that sends us to God. Reflect
therefore on how all that now runs past us in time is as nothing. The end of
earthly things shows us the nothingness of that which can fade and pass away.
The ruin of things declares to us, that this fleeting thing was then close to
nothingness while it yet seemed to stand firm.
Reflect therefore on these things with earnest consideration, Dearest
Brethren, and make fast your heart to the love of eternal things, so that
refusing to strive after earthly dignities, you may attain to that glory to
which we come by faith, through Jesus Christ our Lord, Who liveth and reigneth
God with the Father, in the Unity of the Holy Ghost, throughout all ages and